Eric Keenaghan

Associate Professor of English

Affiliate Faculty in Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies 

Poetry Studies, Modernist & Cold War Studies, Political Theory, Queer & Gender Theory

Eric Keenaghan

Office: Humanities 343
Office phone: 1 (518) 442-4083
Email address:

Eric Keenaghan focuses his research on the political and ethical dimensions of modernist and cold war poetries, particularly in work by LGBTQ-identified writers. He also has published work on teaching poetry, canonical high modernism, translation, and 20th- and 21st-century women's experimental poetry and fiction. He is the author of Queering Cold War Poetry: Ethics of Vulnerability in Cuba and the United States (Ohio State University Press, 2009) and an advisory editor for the Journal of Modern Literature. He teaches graduate and undergraduate courses about modernist poetry, cold war and contemporary poetry, literature of the Left and new social movements, queer and gender studies, political philosophy, and literary theory.

Currently, he is developing two new critical monographs. The first, The Impersonal Is Political: Late Modernism and the New American Poetry during the New Left Era, examines how cold war poet-activists associated with the antiwar, ecology, feminist, civil rights, black power, and gay liberation movements translated a practice of modernist "impersonality" into their activist ethos. Consequently, their work reminds us that personal politics are not rooted exclusively in private experience and that activist poetry can differ from confessional verse or agitprop. Instead, personal politics and the poetry reflecting them often are matters of conditionality since the "private" human subject is bodily and affectively coextensive with its public environs. A second book project, Life, Love, and War: Anarchist Pacifism, Antifascism, and Twentieth-Century American Poetry, explores the archived and published writings of self-identified anarchist and antifascist poets and poet-activists interested in promoting forms of peace. Their pacifist views cover a broad spectrum of possibilities, ranging from "just warism" to "absolute pacifism." These poets' experimentation with form and subject matter can inform our ideas about how, in a time of war, art and poetry still has a social role and political life, even if--as W.H. Auden famously claimed--"poetry makes nothing happen."   

A chief subject of Professor Keenaghan's recent research has been modernist poet and activist Muriel Rukeyser. He is working with collective of other scholars to develop new recovery and critical projects about her life and work. One of his related projects involves editing The Usable Truth and Other Selected Prose, which recovers some of Rukeyser's forgotten or suppressed essays, journalism, activist writings, and lectures. A piece from this volume, the previously unpublished essay "Many Keys" (1957), has appeared in Feminist Modernist Studies.


If an item is available online, then you can click on the title to preview or access it.


Queering Cold War Poetry: Ethics of Vulnerability in Cuba and the United States (Ohio State University Press, 2009)

Select recent journal articles and book chapters:

"Past, Present, and Potential: Teaching LGBT+ Poetry Historically." Curricular Innovations: LGBTQ Literatures and the New English Studies, edited by John Pruitt and Will Banks. Peter Lang, 2019, pp. 53-70.

"The Political Experiment of 'Pot-Boylers': Thinking, Feeling, and Romance in Kay Boyle's French Resistance Thriller Avalanche." JNT: Journal of Narrative Theory, vol. 48, no. 3, Fall 2018, pp. 339-77. Special issue: "Women's Experimental Forms," edited by Rowena Kennedy-Epstein. See JNT's blog for a "featured author" post about the motivation for this essay.

"The Life of Politics: The Compositional History of The Life of Poetry and Muriel Rukeyser's Changing Appraisal of Emotion and Belief." Textual Practice, vol. 32, no. 7, September 2018, pp. 1103-26. Special issue: "Muriel Rukeyser's The Life of Poetry," edited by Catherine Gander. A free e-print of this article is now available. 

"There Is No Glass Woman: Muriel Rukeyser's Lost Feminist Essay 'Many Keys.'" Introduction to "Many Keys," by Muriel Rukeyser, edited by Keenaghan. Feminist Modernist Studies, vol. 1, nos. 1-2, 2018, pp. 186-204. Special issue: "Toward Feminist Modernisms," edited by Cassandra Laity. A free e-print of this article is now available.

"The Impersonal Is Political: On the Living Theatre and William Carlos Williams's Many Loves." The William Carlos Williams Review, vol. 33, nos. 1-2, 2016, pp. 101-27. Special issue: "The New Williams," edited by Jen Phillis and Neri Sandoval. Recipient of the William Carlos Williams Society's Walter Scott Peterson Award for 2016, recognizing the best essay published in the William Carlos Williams Review that year. 

"Queer Poetry, Between ‘As Is” and “As If.’” The Cambridge Companion to American Gay and Lesbian Literature, edited by Scott Herring. Cambridge University Press, 2015, pp. 44-58. Volume named Choice Outstanding Academic Title for 2015.

Select recent book reviews and review essays:

“The Age of Olson.” Review of Imagining Persons: Robert Duncan’s Lectures on Charles Olson, edited by Robert Bertholf and Dale Smith; An Open Map: The Correspondence of Robert Duncan and Charles Olson, edited by Robert Bertholf and Dale Smith; The Collected Letters of Charles Olson and J.H. Prynne, edited by Ryan Dobran; and The Olson Codex: Projective Verse and the Problem of the Mayan Glyphs, by Dennis Tedlock. Journal of Modern Literature, projected Fall 2019. (Forthcoming)

Review of A Curious Peril: H.D.'s Late Modernist Prose, by Lara Vetter. Tulsa Studies in Women's Literature, vol. 37, no. 4, Fall 2018, pp. 460-3.

Review of The Transmutation of Love and Avant-Garde Poetics, by Jeanne Heuving. MLQ (Modern Language Quarterly): A Journal of Literary History, vol. 79, no. 1, March 2018, pp.117-21.

“The Archive and the Alchemical Will: On Critics’ Historicism and Poets’ Vision in Two Recent Recoveries of H.D.’s and Pound’s Lost Writings.” Review of Ezra Pound’s Eriugena, by Mark Byron; and Within the Walls and What Do I Love, by H.D. (Hilda Doolittle) and edited by Annette Debo. Journal of Modern Literature, vol. 39, no. 3, Spring 2016, 123-40.


Upcoming courses (Fall 2019)

Undergraduate level: 

Writing in the Margins (AENG 305V): A research writing course that focuses on the study of minority literature, including work by contemporary African American, Latinx, Muslim American, LGBTQ+, undocumented, and disabled writers. How might we read socially marginalized authors as speaking from, and beyond, the minority groups with which they are identified? Open only to declared English majors who have received a "C" or better in AENG 205Z.


The Lives of Muriel Rukeyser (AENG 368, cross-listed as AWSS 368): A study of the life and work of twentieth-century feminist poet Muriel Rukeyser, whose art and activism addressed many different social justice issues. Rukeyser embodied several different identities--pansexual woman, single mother, leftist, antifascist, Jewish American. In addition to poetry, she worked in many other forms--such as biography, literary nonfiction, fiction, drama, film, translation, children's literature, and political journalism, and others. We will study samples of her far-ranging body of work, in relationship to cultural and political histories, archival documents, and literary criticism.     

Select past courses

Graduate level: Queer Poetry and Politics; American Lyric Refigured; Modern Imagination and the Poetics of Possibility; The William Carlos Williams Era; American Modernist Poetry; Modernism and Pragmatism 

Undergraduate level: Modernist American Poetry, 1900-1950; Cold War Poetry: The Beats and the Black Mountain School; Creating Publics [on US public intellectuals] (English Honors); How Sex Tells, How Sex Sells; Queer American Poetry and Politics; The Art of War (Honors College)


Complete cv (PDF format)

Eric Keenaghan, "Openings: Some Notes on the Political in 'Drafts'" (a lyric essay on Rachel Blau DuPlessis' Drafts, published in Jacket2)

Eric Keenaghan, from Love Letters to My Husband (original poems, published in Barzakh)

Eric Keenaghan, A radio interview on Ralph Waldo Emerson and commonality (recorded for Against the Grain, broadcast on KPFA and WBAI)